The Coming Generation.
Last week we witnessed in Dublin the first political parade of the coming generation. Between twenty-five and thirty thousand children turned out and walked in processional order through the streets of the city, to show the world that British Imperialism had cast no glamour over their young minds. And that in the person of Her Britannic Majesty they recognised only a woman – no better than the mothers who bore them, if as good. It was a great sight to see the little rebels taking possession of the city – a sight more promising for the future of the country than any we can remember.
Well, the children did their duty. Now are you prepared to do your duty to the children? Listen, my patriotic friend! Every child in that army of processionists – being the children of the poor as they all were, for it is only in the veins of such the stream of patriotism flows pure and undefiled – is destined to become, if it lives, the slave of a master, and will grow up in a world which nowhere recognises its right to life, except on the supposition that it will make a profit for a master.
You rear your child up to love its country, and you support a social system which declares that the child has no right to the country, but must pay for permission to live on it as it is the property of private individuals. You shout for liberty, and you surrender your children to the mercies of capitalism which will seize them as soon as they leave school, and will devote their little bones, muscles and undeveloped brains to the task of grinding out profits for a boss. Are you doing your duty? Love Ireland! Yes, if by ‘Ireland’ you mean not only the earth and the waters, but the men and the women, the boys and the girls – the people of Ireland, in fact.
Ireland without her people is nothing to me, and the man who is bubbling over with love and enthusiasm for ‘Ireland’, and can yet pass unmoved through our streets and witness all the wrong and the suffering, the shame and the degradation wrought upon the people of Ireland, aye, wrought by Irishmen upon Irishmen and women, without burning to end it, is, in my opinion, a fraud and a liar in his heart, no matter how he loves that combination of chemical elements which he is pleased to call ‘Ireland’. If you are proud of the children who responded to the call of their country, and passed unheeded the seductions of the tyrant, then bestir yourselves to win for them a right to live in that country, a right to enjoy its beauties, and revel in its abundance, irrespective of the wishes of any employer or landlord.
When Socialism is realised every child in our Irish soil will by the mere fact of its existence be an heir to, and partner in, all the country produces; will have the same right to an assured existence as the citizen has today to his citizenship – in fact that will then be the right of citizenship, the right to live in the country, and the right to enjoy those fruits of labour the country will yield to its children. That is the reward you should render the children for their love of country; win the country for them and leave it behind you as theirs to enjoy free and unfettered – neither under the heel of foreign tyrant, nor yielding disguised tribute to native slave driver.
You cannot be doing, you are not doing, your duty to the children while you leave them to grow up amidst such surroundings as are to be found in the tenement houses of our city. You are neglecting your duty as long as you allow your City Hall to be in the power of men who as landlords derive their living from the rents they extort out of the poisonous slums in which they are slowly murdering the children of the working class – those very children you professed to admire on Sunday. You are a traitor to your duty as long as you elect to Parliament the members of a political party which, like the Home Rule Party, is officered, managed and financed by that same class – the landlords of our city slums.
Ah, be true to your class, to your duty, to our children, and you cannot fail but be worthy of your country, and when next the non-Socialist politicians, or the municipal wirepuller solicits support:
Think of the children who swarm and die
In loathsome dens where despair is king,
Like blackened buds of a frosty spring
That wither sunless, remote they lie
From the love that nurtures each quickening sense,
While Vice, and Hunger, and Pestilence,
Breast-poisoned nurses, the babies drain dry.
And so thinking, take your place in the ranks of the Socialist Republican Party.